I have a bone to pick with my bees. They have developed a habit that I am none too pleased about. Bees drink water. They will go to a water source and have a little sip as they go foraging from place to place. I set up a little pool (a retired baby pool) by their hives for this purpose. I even installed a little bubbler that tends to attract them, with large rocks for them to set on and lap up the water. But where do my bright little bees decide to go and drink? I'll tell you.
In the upper left hand corner of the picture below you'll see the far left side of my garden -- it's set below the front part of our yard, thanks to a retaining wall, which is kind of nice since walkers-by can't see if I've had time to weed or not. Anyway, there is a little pathway between the fence Victor and I put in, and the potato towers you can see in the picture to the left. Because this area is lower than the front yard, between my irrigation system and the incessant rain that we've been getting (don't get me started) the little pathway is a little . . . 'squishy'. Well, the bees have decided this is a great place to suck up water. So, as I walk back and forth to my garden, or the compost pile for leaves and yard clippings, or to visit my hens, or for the kids to play on the swing set, we have to tromp on this pathway. The other day (ahem, when it was actually sunny) I tried to count how many bees were there sipping away. The pathway was literally buzzing, there must have been about 20 bees there. Which compared to how many bees are in my two hives, is a very small proportion, but HONESTLY!
The thing is, it's not even good fare! The original soil here is like thick clay so it's easy to develop areas with bad drainage. Sometimes it can get a bit . . . uh . . . earthy-smelling (not in a good way). There she is . . . oh brilliant bee of mine. Good grief. So far, they don't seem to mind our tromping through their watering hole - they just fly out of the way, but I am mildly concerned. A couple of them have gotten stepped on accidentally (or run-over by the wheel barrel) and I'm just waiting for one of them to get mad that we nearly stepped on her.
Aside from the smelly clay water sucking habits, they are doing quite well considering we've had about 4 weeks of constant rain. The poor things go bananas when the sun comes out in between rain showers. It's really hard to capture it on film. They are zipping in and out of their hives like there is an emergency. They don't bumble and bump around like their counter parts the bumble bee, the honey bee zips out and zips back in like an F-16 on a mission.
The week after I put the second brood chamber (the upper large box with 8 frames of wax foundation) on both hives the bees in the right hive in particular went to town building comb on the foundation. In one week, they filled 4 frames. I've been waiting for them to make more progress so I can put the next box -- the HONEY SUPER -- on top. On Tuesday when I went into my hives I was fully prepared to put the honey supers on, but they weren't ready. The wax production had come to a screeching halt. So, I lugged them back inside. They made some progress, but it wasn't like the week before. Maybe it's because of the rain. Since they are new in their hives and have to build comb onto the empty wax foundation I am still feeding them sugar syrup (10 lb bag of sugar combined with 5 quarts of hot tap water). From what I understand, the moment you take the sugar syrup off, they really slow down with the comb production and they need to build comb so that the queen can have ample space to lay -- AND eventually stash honey in the honey super for ME!
The good news is that my queens are laying eggs in both the upper and lower chambers, I have capped brood and larvae in both hives, and even some capped honey in the brood chambers for the bees. I may check them in a day or two (if I can find a rain-free day) and see if they are ready for their honey super yet -- just to be sure. You don't want your bees to run out of room. Crowded Bees = Bad.